Rwandan Combatants Kill 17 in Attack on Congo Village

Rwandan combatants attacked a village in eastern Congo on Sunday, killing 17 people, wounding 28 others and taking as many as a dozen people hostage, a local rights worker said, citing survivors' accounts.

The attackers — carrying machetes, spears and hammers — descended on the village of Kanyola in the middle of the night, rights worker Constantin Charondagwa said by telephone from Bukavu, about 30 miles from Kanyola.

Charondagwa, whose Civil Society of Sud-Kivu office in Bukavu coordinates local humanitarian groups' efforts, said he had visited Kanyola and interviewed people who escaped the attack.

"The combatants belong to the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, as well as to other armed Rwandan groups," Charondagwa said.

The U.N. mission in Congo could not confirm the attack, but a spokesman said a team had been dispatched to the area.

"By Monday, our team will reach the village to verify these reports," U.N. spokesman Maj. Gabriel de Brosses said.

In January, Congo's army launched an offensive against foreign militias active in eastern Congo. But according to the Civil Society office, the army did not have a strong presence in Kanyola.

The Rwandan rebels based in eastern Congo include members of Rwanda's former army and extremist Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe, who led the 100-day genocide of more than a half-million people in Rwanda in 1994.

One of the key rebel groups is the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, whose members include people accused of participating in the genocide that targeted members of the Tutsi ethnic minority and political moderates from the Hutu majority.

They have been based in eastern Congo after being chased out of their home country.